Tag Archives: refugees

Refugees for Refugees, Pooling Global Musical Talent

Refugees for Refugees – Amina (Muziekpublique, 2019)

It’s become fairly standard to sum up a person’s life in a single moment. We catch a glimpse of the face as some person crosses a border, disembarks from a ship or jockeys for space in a refugee camp and we sum up that life.

There are some who would chalk up the refugee story by making it part and parcel to tragedy, war or desperate circumstances, while the less sympathetic would see an unwanted burden. But that’s never the whole story. We don’t see bread bakers, engineers, nurses or store owners where the family’s store has successfully existed and operated for and by generation after generation of the same family. We certainly don’t see the keepers of traditional craft work like carving or needlework or artists or musicians. We dismiss the back story of the refugee, that life before being uprooted, and perhaps the most precious of that life. It is with some sadness that I think we might be truly missing out.

It’s somewhere in here that Muziekpubique, a non-profit organization in Belgium, has seen this missed opportunity. Running a program promoting folk and world music by way of concerts, music lessons and a record label. This clever organization and label has teamed up musicians from Pakistan, Tibet, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Belgium to create Refugees for Refugees, resulting in a second release of the recording called Amina, in support of Muziekpublique and Cinemaximiliaan, a kind of cross cultural crossroads for refugees in a Brussels park where refugees can get information, find friends and even watch a movie or find a creative project.

Refugees for Refugees – Amina

While the good deeds of Refugees for Refugees might be incentive enough to support this project, the better bet is to support this wonderful music. Amina is full of delightful surprises and lush pleasures. Composing and arranging most of the music on Amina by members of Refugees for Refugees, this collaboration where one musical tradition is seamlessly enfolded in another, sometimes in improbable combinations, comes across as wholly organic.

Pooling the talents of Pakistan’s Asad Qizilbash on sarod, Tibet’s Dolma Renqingi on vocals, Syria’s Fakher Madallal on vocals and percussion, Tibet’s Kelsang Hula on dramyen and vocals, Afghanistan’s Mohammad Aman Yusufi on dambura and vocals, Belgium’s Simon Leleux on oriental percussion, Iraq’s Souhad Najem on qanun, Syria’s Tamman Al Ramadan on ney, Syria’s Tareq Alsayed Yahua on ud and Belgium’s Tristan Driessens on ud Amina flows free in that otherworldly space where musicians, regardless of their country or tradition, meet and commune, that place where all the good things in music happen.

Hooking listeners from the opening strains of “Perahan,” Amina dazzles with a heady mix of vocals, ud and ney. And, the tracks just get better with “Semki Molem” with its rich combination of deep male chorus against the soaring vocals of Aren Dolma. The ud laced “Qad Hijaz” is just as powerfully stunning as “Kesaro Sarko.”

Other goodies include the sarod and quanun rich “Punarjanm,” “Tonshak” with its scratchy throat singing against Tibetan vocals by Ms. Dolma and musical combination of sarod, dramyen, ud, ney and bendir and all the glorious quanum riches of “Shuq.” “Tales of the Mountain” will raise the hairs on the back of your neck it’s that good, just as simple pleasures of sarod and dholla will delight on “After the Dust.” And still the goodies just keep coming with “Rose Gate,” “Wasla Qudud Bayati” “Lhasa” and closing track “Chaman Chaman.”

With Amina, supporting a good cause never sounded so good.

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Musical Eye-Opener to Refugee Crisis

Various Artists – The Long Road (British Red Cross, 2016)

With proceeds going to the British Red Cross UK Refugee Support Service and with help from the Arts Council England, producer Ethan Johns, engineer Dom Monks and executive producer James Gaster, The Long Road is musical eye-opener to the present refugee and asylum seeker across the globe.

Singer, former Led Zeppelin front man and The Long Road contributor, Robert Plant says, “We have a worldwide international catastrophe – talking about it is one thing, doing something about it is another. The position we are in, it’s paramount we all do our best one way or another to help.”

With just five short tracks, most of the artists compiled for The Long Road have skin in the game from the desert blues group Tinariwen and their founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib at one time a child refugee himself to the Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars who made it a practice to support refugees during the civil war in Sierra Leone to artist and producer Adam Bainbridge who once worked as a Red Cross refugee services volunteer.

As a refugee or a witness to the hardship and devastation refugees and asylum seekers face or simply a person of conscience, The Long Road is all about lending a helping hand through music.

Producer Ethan John says of the project, “I wanted to get involved because I thought this was a story worth telling. This is a very special opportunity to create an album with a narrative that helps more people understand the realities of being a refugee and the journeys that people go through.”

Opening the familiar strains of the desert blues, Tinariwen takes on “Ker Algahalam Mas Tasossam” or “Why Is the World Silent?”

The Long Road turns spare and poetically potent with “Who Are You?” with the beat poet Scroobius Pip and the soulful vocals of Congolese Didier Kisala.

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars ramps up the goodness with the brightly reggae tinged “World Peace,” before giving way to the darkly delicious “The Blanket of Night” offered up by Robert Plant.

Kindness closes The Long Road with the story of a Syrian refugee Ayman on “A Retelling.”

We so rarely get the opportunity to be force of change by listening, but The Long Road gives music fans just that opportunity and it would be silly not to take the chance of positive change.

Buy The Long Road CD in North America

Buy The Long Road in Europe

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British Red Cross Releases The Long Road Benefit Album

The British Red Cross has released The Long Road, a concept world music album featuring Robert Plant, Scroobius Pip, the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, Tinariwen and Kindness. The album is based on the real-life experiences of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.

The Long Road album sees features the stories of individuals who have been forced to flee their homes and seek safety in the UK.

This is a very special opportunity to create an album with a narrative that helps more people understand the realities of being a refugee and the journeys people go through,” said producer Ethan Johns. “Music is one of the oldest forms of storytelling, and these are important stories to be told.”

All earnings will go to funding the British Red Cross’s refugee work in the UK.

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